The Barrel O’Monkeyz 2014 Think “Outside the Gift Box” Holiday Gift List

With holiday shopping, it’s never too late until—well—it’s too late! So, instead of stressing over what to give and battling crowds at the mall, and with available shopping days dwindling to a precious few, check out these offerings of unique products and/or gift certificates for that special someone in your life.

BOM Happy Holidays

  1. Huntington’s Disease Society Of America (HDSA)—Help the HDSA improve the lives of people with Huntington’s disease and their families with these holiday gift ideas. http://www.hdsa.org/shop/hdsa-products/250/holiday-store.html
  2. Ground-Base Nutrition—As their motto, “Nature’s Best…Nothing Less,” suggests, this leader in natural food supplements uses the highest quality whole food ingredients straight from Mother Earth. https://www.ground-based.com/
  3. Plastic Clothing—Begun in 1999 to make better apparel and accessories for volleyball, Plastic Gear has grown into a must-have for athletes who demand performance, comfort, and style. http://www.plasticclothing.com/
  4. Gobie H20—Shark Tank calls their eco-friendly alternatives to single-use water bottles “the sexiest water bottle on the market.” See why at http://www.gobieh2o.com/.
  5. Splash of Passion—This year-round ranching operation invites horse riders to experience the peace and quiet of Pine Valley Meadow . . . “the way the West was!” http://splashofpassion.us/
  6. ZoicTech-blended comfort and great customer interaction for cyclists and hikers. http://www.zoic.com/
  7. X1 Audio—Full line of sport headphones, waterproof headphones, sweatproof headphones, waterproof iPhone cases, and more. http://www.x-1.com/
  8. Cl!ck Carabiners—This brilliantly designed and useful utility tool makes a perfect stocking stuffer or small gift for the skier/snowboarder in your life. http://www.clickcarabiner.com/
  9. Red Mountain—Located in Rossland, BC, this last great, unspoiled resort features 2,877 in-bound acres of pristine skiing unfettered by overdevelopment. http://www.redresort.com/
  10. Tribal Snowtools—Packable, feather-light and super-strong carbon composite performance tools that enhance the backcountry, sidecountry, and freeride experience for skiers and snowboarders. http://tribalsnowtools.com/

Got your own items to add to this list, or ideas on how to “think outside the gift box” this holiday season? Let others know by sharing your ideas and experiences here.

Happy Holidays to ALL!

It pushes the envelope a bit, but this SNL video short
has become a true ‘Holiday Classic.’ Enjoy!

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Time Flies

They say time flies when you’re having fun. And for me, 2014 has been a blast.

On the personal front, I got engaged, got married, and just a couple of weeks ago welcomed home baby Lee.

Professionally, I’ve been hard at work with Barrel O’ Monkeyz, helping clients build their brand stories while I’ve been refreshing my own with a new website, a fantastic new team, and renewed energy.

Even the Holidays haven’t seemed to be able to slow things down this year. Seems like Halloween just came and went and then we were on to Thanksgiving—and in just a little over two weeks it’ll be Christmas and then New Year’s, and pretty soon the first quarter will be over!

Whew. It’s almost enough to make your head spin.

Last November I explored whether or not time actually speeds up as we get older. The good news is that it doesn’t speed up—not really anyway. It’s all a matter of perception. Of course, as we marketers and entrepreneurs know, perception is reality. So while time may not actually speed up, we feel as though it speeds up as we hurry along our daily lives.

It seems that as we get older, the sheer number of events we’ve experienced over a lifetime begin to lose their distinction from one another, making the minutes, hours, and days seem to streak by in a blur.

What can we do about it? Apparently, there’s lots we can do to slow the hands of time. Here’s that blog again. It’s hard to believe more than a year has passed since I wrote it . . . Enjoy!

BOM Time Flies

A Matter of Time

(Originally posted on November 13, 2013)

WOW. Is it really already mid-November? With the Thanksgiving feast looming, Turkeys everywhere are scattering.

These days it seems as though every year goes by more quickly. I guess our parents were right when they said time goes faster as you get older. Looking back at the previous 11 months—heck the last 2 or 3 years—it’s hard for me to argue with them. “2013 where did you go? I hardly knew you!”

So does time actually speed up?

Albert Einstein theorized that time is relative, and scientific observation and experiment routinely support his notion. And while Einstein was almost certainly more concerned with the physical properties of time, I’m sure he would be relieved to know that I (and others) agree with him when it comes to our perception of time as well. Its seems that’s relative, too.

When we’re young, everything is a first—first day of school, first date, first car, first job, etc.—and all of these firsts hold distinct places in our memories. Remember those summer vacations off from school, the days at the beach, biking with your best friends, playing ball? Those times seemed endless, didn’t they? Now think back to your most recent vacation. It probably seemed to come and go in a flash.

As we get older our lives get filled with more and more clutter, a series of indistinct, repetitive events and activities that fill our days and nights. Do you remember your 27th birthday? Unless you did something super special, it’s probably hard to distinguish it from your 26th or 28th . . . or even your 33rd. Time seems to get compressed between such indistinct events and we perceive the days and years as flying by.

Time flies in these dazzling time-lapse
videos from National Geographic

This past summer, the New York Times ran an article on how we experience time as we get older. It’s a fascinating and entertaining read, and a bit reassuring. No, it seems, we older folks aren’t suffering from some collective malady after all, nor are we the victims freaky time-related phenomena best discussed by quantum physicists or fodder for the latest Sci Fi Channel movie of the week.

Studies cited in the article found several distinct reasons for why young and old perceive the passage of time differently:

  • Our emotionsaffect how we perceive time. When we are afraid or fearful, time seems to pass more slowly. Makes sense, doesn’t it? As kids, more than likely we experienced a lot of our firsts with a bit of anxiety. Even now, the good times always seem to fly by, while the bad ones seem to take forever.
  • Attention and memoryalso play a big part in how we perceive time. To gauge time accurately requires the ability to focus and remember, so it stands to reason that as our lives get more hectic as adults—well, the days seem to pass in a blur.
  • Similarly, as the mental demandsof tasks grow, we perceive the duration of those tasks to be longer. In other words, learning new things—and when we are youngsters everything is new—slows down our internal sense of time. As we get older, we tend to do repetitive tasks—at home, at work, at play—and the days, the weeks, the years tend to run into another.

The author of the article, Richard A. Friedman, concludes that “if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.”

Sure sounds like great advice to me!

In today’s world, when everything from entertainment to what we should think about certain issues of the day is spoon-fed to us, we really don’t pay that much attention, nor do we expend much mental energy, because we don’t have to. Our minds have become lazy and dulled . . . and time slips by faster and faster.

The real answer to slowing down the passage of time, it seems, isn’t to “stop and smell the roses,” but to start using our time more wisely:

  • Do something different for the upcoming holidays.
  • Learn a new skill or hobby.
  • Start a new business.
  • Embark on a new career.
  • Go somewhere different this weekend.
  • Shake things up a bit and do something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
  • Make a new friend.

The possibilities are endless, while time is not. I figure I’ve only got so many days on this globe, so I aim to make the most of each tick-tock. Anyone read a good “how-to” book lately?

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The RIGHT to Win! Do you have the Right?

When a pro athlete takes the field—whether it’s Aaron Rogers staring down Darrelle Revis, Giancarlo Stanton facing off against Clayton Kershaw, or Serena Williams or Venus Williams going head to head with another tennis elite—each competitor has both the ability and the expectation of achieving success given the talents and track record he or she brings to the table. Sure, all contestants can’t come out on top all of the time, but over time winners establish their ability—their RIGHT—to win consistently.

BOM_Right-to-Win

The same goes for businesses. Just like sports, there are winners and losers, star performers and underperformers and everyone in between, plus lots and lots of stiff competition. In sports as well as in business, from the CEO to the frontline staff, each person comes to the “arena” with a standard set of tools and the acumen necessary to compete. Each comes with the right to win, and they don’t get there by accident. They work hard. They’re good at what they do, and they have to adapt to changing circumstances, rules, and competitive pressures or they don’t stick around for long.

But having the right to win and actually winning are two vastly different things. Just ask any member of the Oakland Raiders football team. Now ask the New England Patriots. Each team has the right to win, but only one wins consistently nowadays.

What’s the difference?

Talent for sure, but in sports just like in business, there’s a fine line between being a star performer and being solid but unspectacular. Desire plays a role, no doubt, as does mental toughness, and having a winning attitude. Such attributes are all part of what one might call a winning team “culture” or, in business, a winning “corporate culture.”

Companies (or teams) that win consistently put themselves, time and again, in situations that give them the greatest right to win. They have the mindset of being winners, and the desire and the talent to do what it takes to get there.

Apple is a good example of a company that has exercised its right to win. All but left for dead after Microsoft surged to the lead in the PC wars of the 1990s, Apple persevered and innovated its way back into contention by the early 2000s. All along, Steve Jobs knew Apple had the right to win; it was all a matter of his company earning the victory . . . and he did so by guiding Apple to out-innovate and outperform its competitors.

Apple achieved success by aligning what it did well and what made it different from other technology companies with a clearly defined target audience, hungry for its products and services. Along the way, Apple was pressured to let others build software for its hardware; it was pressured to let others build hardware for its software; and it was ridiculed for not allowing adobe flash video to play on its smartphones and tablets. But for Apple, winning was all about maintaining control and maintaining the quality of its products in line with customer expectations, all the while adapting to changes in technology and, in many cases, pioneering new technologies. The results speak for themselves.

By holding true to its vision, corporate culture, and underlying principles, Apple has become the most highly-value company in history, at last report nearing the $700 billion mark . . . and that’s a win in anyone’s book.

In sports, this kind of discipline is called focus—the kind of focus necessary to hit a tiny round ball with a thin wooden bat, or for a quarterback to execute under duress as the pocket collapses around him. It’s the kind of focus and drive that separates talented “high potential” athletes from the talented winners.

Which are you—a high potential or a winner?

  • Do you align your talents and vision with what your customers want most?
  • Do you innovate and adapt to changes in the marketplace?
  • Are you able to tell your brand story in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd and connects with your target customers emotionally?
Good Companies Make You Think.
Great Companies Make You Feel.

Remember, like any business you have the RIGHT to win, but so, too do your competitors. How will you stand out? How will you compete?

You can start by working with Barrel O’Monkeyz to tell your brand story in a way that gives your company the greatest right to win.

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Happy Thanksgiving

A few years ago, as Thanksgiving approached, I wrote a blog about gratitude, service to others, and living life with enthusiasm. I think I’ve re-run that blog every year since, thinking there’s not much more to say. It’s become sort of a Thanksgiving blogging tradition.

And yet, this year I feel compelled to say a little bit more, seeing where I’ve got so much to be grateful for these days: a loving wife, a brand new baby daughter, professional success, and the unconditional love of family and friends. I am truly blessed.

That said, the only thing I would add is that we should be grateful for what is yet to come. You see, I truly believe that we make our own futures and that gratitude for what we have leads to even more for which we can be grateful down the road—not just material things, mind you, but those things that really matter, such as relationships and love.

Try it. Be grateful, be positive, be loving, and be helpful. A recipe for a life well lived doesn’t get much simpler (or better) than that.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

BoM Happy Thanksgiving

A Winning Combination: Gratitude and Service to Others

(Originally posted on November 22, 2011 by Paul June)

This time of year, people tend to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays that they are often unable to enjoy them. Are you one of these people? How about switching things up this year?

As a starter, I invite you to hop off the post-Halloween holiday treadmill, take a deep breath, consider those things in life for which you are grateful, and ask how you could better serve others.

I always start by acknowledging how grateful I am to be alive, knowing how quickly one’s hold on life and good health can change. Of course, I could then think about how my Mom and Dad are not with me, that my sister and niece have long since left me, that my start-up company and dreams were destroyed by corporate America, or how hard the recession has hit my pocket book and let such reflection get me down . . . but I choose not to. I choose to look at my “cup” as being half-full and, what’s more, as being twice too big to begin with!

Here are some of the things for which I am most grateful . . .

  • Being born and raised in the God-blessed USA
  • A roof over my head
  • Food on the table
  • Credit cards with revolving balances
  • Clothes on my back
  • Having family and friends who love me
  • Knowing love
  • Laughter
  • A positive outlook
  • Strong faith
  • Being able to fit into size 34-inch jeans
  • My surgically repaired shoulder being better
  • Being able to walk, smell, and see the glories around us
  • Being well-educated.
This funny commercial is no turkey!

The bottom line is we all want to matter in this world. We all want to be significant. How we matter and how we are significant can vary. We all can’t be chiefs, and that’s OK. Sometimes we just need to embrace being servants. But whatever the role, chief or servant, we need to approach our lives with enthusiasm.

I challenge you to attack life with a positive attitude. It’s a choice of attitude and perspective, which takes tremendous energy to maintain (staying enthusiastic through good times and bad is hard work!), but reaps many gifts over the long haul.

So in that vein, let’s choose to serve each other this holiday season—asking for nothing in return—and let’s do it with zeal! Giving without asking is a wonderful thing, and something for which we can all be grateful.

A good place to start is to make your own list of things for which you are grateful, and then to help others expand their lists.

For what are you most thankful? Share it here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Are You Tenacious?

Success doesn’t just happen. Contrary to popular culture (and the occasional suggestions of our elected leaders), success takes hard work, perseverance, a little bit of self-made luck, and tenacity—and it’s the same whether you’re looking for success in relationships, at school, in your career, or landing that new client.

I define tenacity as “strength with a purpose.” It’s not just being persistent or stubborn or obstinate or refusing to give up. Tenacity is keeping forward momentum going with a game plan, a strategy, and the determination to keep your dreams alive even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

BOM-Tenacity

You don’t have to look far to find examples of tenacity in life. Just take any number of our wounded warriors home from the Middle East or other hotspots around the world, many of whom are missing one or more limbs to go along with psychological scarring. It would be easy for them to give up, and there’d be few to blame them, but most (fortunately) remain tenacious even in such dire circumstances—determined to live their lives to the fullest. That’s strength with purpose, and I wager any one of us can look to our own lives—friends, family, colleagues—who have remained steadfast and determined when faced with a sudden accident, health issue, or some other life event.

In sports, examples or tenacity are all around us. Just check the NFL injury reports week after week. From concussions to torn ACLs and MCLs, the sports pages are replete with examples of athletes battling back from often season-ending (if not career-threatening injury). It takes tenacity and willpower to reclaim your spot on the field—qualities many top athletes had to possess in the first place, just to make it in professional sports.

Success in relationships takes tenacity as well. Life is not always rosy, from financial woes to job issues to health scares to how people simply grow and evolve over time. Keeping relationships fresh and healthy takes hard work and constant attention. It takes tenacity (just ask your gram and gramps, married for 50+ years!).

Getting good grades takes tenacity as well, especially at the collegiate level. Those with a drive to get the most out of their educational dollars often do, while those just along for the ride tend to underperform. When it comes to school, strength with a purpose usually equates to excellent grades and excellent opportunities following graduation.

And it goes without saying that success in business takes tenacity too—whether it’s getting your foot in the door in pursuit of your dream job, or getting a promotion, successfully operating your own business, or leading a high performing team. The key to it all is tenacity.

Talent vs. Tenacity

Winston Churchill’s tenacity was a key to the Allies winning World War II. Consider the affect his words had on those fighting in the air and on sea and land, “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, we shall never give in.”

Apple fave, the late Steve Jobs, could have folded up his tent when Apple seemed stuck and going nowhere in the early 1990s—to the point where he was ousted from Apple altogether. Jobs persisted—he was tenacious—and Apple now has more than $117 billion in cold, hard cash in reserve!

And by some accounts, Arthur C. Clarke had his manuscript for 2001: A Space Odyssey rejected nearly 50 times. Yet he persisted. The book was published, Stanley Kubrick got his hands on it, made a movie, and the rest is Sci-Fi history.

How has being tenacious helped you in your personal or professional pursuits? Has it ever hurt you?

Share your experiences here.

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Just Ask and They will Tell . . . A Simple Marketing Tool that will Help your Business

Sometimes the most obvious solution is staring you right in the face. Take businesses thinking about or already in the process of branding or re-branding themselves. They struggle with what to say, how to say it, and to whom to address it.

But why?

If they’ve been in business for a while, they have a built-in focus group ripe for the asking—their customers. And if they’re just getting underway, they no doubt have a circle of colleagues and/or “raving fans” who would be more than willing to offer their opinions and suggestions.

Each is a perfect choice for helping you hone your message (and don’t forget your internal audience—your employees—in the process).

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for not knowing what your customers and other key stakeholders are thinking. From online survey tools to social media, access to feedback of all sorts is greater than ever . . . and usually all you need to do is ask.

What are you doing to know more about your customers and key constituencies?

Have a re-read of my previous blog about getting to know your customers better for some ideas. Enjoy!

The Customer Knows Best, But Do You Know Your Customer?

(Originally Posted on May 22, 2013)

Who are your customers? Do you know them, really . . . or do you just think you do.

For most small- to medium-sized businesses, I’m betting on the latter, and here’s why: you would be amazed at how many times I’ve been asked to spearhead a marketing effort, or retool one, without benefit of really knowing who it’s aimed at. For me, that’s like being asked to deliver a rocket to the moon without actually being given the coordinates, figuring aiming it toward outer space is good enough.

BOM-Know-Your-Customer

Given that kind of scenario, what’s the likelihood of reaching the objective? Nil. The same goes for marketing, especially if you don’t know who you’re talking to.

Marketing is most successful only when it has a specific target.

Let’s look at a hypothetical. You’re a small, homegrown company. You’ve been successful over the years, but recently some competition has moved into your territory. Sales are down; customer loyalty is being tested. You feel uneasy about maintaining marketshare, let alone growing. You know you need to shift gears to remain competitive, so you decide to ratchet up the marketing volume. After all, you know your customers—they’re the same people who’ve been buying from you for 20-plus years—so what more should you need to do other than crank out the same message that’s worked for you in the past?

Well that’s the problem, right there. The past is the past. The status quo is what’s gotten you here, to the point of stagnation, if not loss of marketshare. Doing the “same old, same old” is not likely to change your results.

But don’t take my word for it. The only people who know for sure why they use your product or service, why they chose your product or service in the first place, and the likelihood they will continue to use your product or service, are your customers. You need to ask them. It’s as simple as that. Absent their input, you are only guessing at what you think you know.

Customer wants, needs, and desires change over time, as does the way they learn about, buy, and even use your products or services.

Who’s to say that the makeup of your customers hasn’t changed over the years? Who’s to say you couldn’t gain even more customers if you were to target a slightly different clientele or rework your message or brand?

Again, the only way to know for sure is to ASK.

Smarter Marketing: Know your customer

Ten, 15, or even 20 years ago, gleaning information from your customers was a daunting proposition, often requiring the steadying hand of a market research firm, expensive database purchases, and even more expensive postal or telephone costs. You really needed to be serious about introducing a product or service, or wanting to know the minds and hearts of your customers, to be willing to invest such a large chunk of hard-earned cash.

But something happened in the late 1990s, give or take a few years. The Internet blossomed, the digital age bloomed, and suddenly tools to develop and disseminate surveys, collect, analyze, and report data were readily available and affordable, from online tools, to digital scanners, to automated spreadsheets and tabulators—a true marketers dream come true. (Disclaimer to all you survey purists out there: sure, nothing beats a scientifically designed survey and a pristine, unbiased sampling of your customers, but faced with no data vs. having some data, I’ll take “some” data every time.)

But then something even odder happened . . . and it’s still happening today. Businesses large and small have failed to use these data collection and analysis tools to their full advantage. But why?

For many, they simply don’t understand the power of information. They have failed to grasp the business argument for taking the guesswork out of their marketing moves. Imagine knowing what to say, how to say it, and to whom to address it . . . and all you need to do is ASK your customers.

For others, perhaps they fear customers will become annoyed if asked too many questions (personally, I feel flattered when a company asks my opinion—it shows they care what I think and truly want to be in touch with what customers want).

Still not convinced or motivated?

  • Just take a quick peek at services such as www.surveymonkey.comwww.zoomerang.comwww.surveygizmo.com, or countless other online survey tools. Even list server giants such as Constant Contact have added some surveying functionality to their offerings.
  • If online surveying is not practical for you, for whatever reason, review your company sales data for zip codes or phone information to get a sense of where your customers come from. You might even randomly sample phone numbers and call customers (or pay your team a little overtime to do so), so you can hear straight from them what matters most.
  • And don’t forget other online data tools such as Google Analytics and quantcast.com, which aim to measure Web site traffic and demographics.

The point is, nowadays there’s no reason NOT to be collecting some information from your customers. All you need to do is make it a priority . . . and then ASK.

Do you know your customers? If so, how do you gather information?

Share what’s worked (and what hasn’t worked) here.

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Just Ask and They Will Tell

Sometimes the most obvious solution is staring you right in the face. Take businesses thinking about or already in the process of branding or re-branding themselves. They struggle with what to say, how to say it, and to whom to address it.

But why?

If they’ve been in business for a while, they have a built-in focus group ripe for the asking—their customers. And if they’re just getting underway, they no doubt have a circle of colleagues and/or “raving fans” who would be more than willing to offer their opinions and suggestions.

Each is a perfect choice for helping you hone your message (and don’t forget your internal audience—your employees—in the process).

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for not knowing what your customers and other key stakeholders are thinking. From online survey tools to social media, access to feedback of all sorts is greater than ever . . . and usually all you need to do is ask.

What are you doing to know more about your customers and key constituencies?

Have a re-read of my previous blog about getting to know your customers better for some ideas. Enjoy!

The Customer Knows Best, But Do You Know Your Customer?

(Originally Posted on May 22, 2013)

Who are your customers? Do you know them, really . . . or do you just think you do.

For most small- to medium-sized businesses, I’m betting on the latter, and here’s why: you would be amazed at how many times I’ve been asked to spearhead a marketing effort, or retool one, without benefit of really knowing who it’s aimed at. For me, that’s like being asked to deliver a rocket to the moon without actually being given the coordinates, figuring aiming it toward outer space is good enough.

BOM-Know-Your-Customer

Given that kind of scenario, what’s the likelihood of reaching the objective? Nil. The same goes for marketing, especially if you don’t know who you’re talking to.

Marketing is most successful only when it has a specific target.

Let’s look at a hypothetical. You’re a small, homegrown company. You’ve been successful over the years, but recently some competition has moved into your territory. Sales are down; customer loyalty is being tested. You feel uneasy about maintaining marketshare, let alone growing. You know you need to shift gears to remain competitive, so you decide to ratchet up the marketing volume. After all, you know your customers—they’re the same people who’ve been buying from you for 20-plus years—so what more should you need to do other than crank out the same message that’s worked for you in the past?

Well that’s the problem, right there. The past is the past. The status quo is what’s gotten you here, to the point of stagnation, if not loss of marketshare. Doing the “same old, same old” is not likely to change your results.

But don’t take my word for it. The only people who know for sure why they use your product or service, why they chose your product or service in the first place, and the likelihood they will continue to use your product or service, are your customers. You need to ask them. It’s as simple as that. Absent their input, you are only guessing at what you think you know.

Customer wants, needs, and desires change over time, as does the way they learn about, buy, and even use your products or services.

Who’s to say that the makeup of your customers hasn’t changed over the years? Who’s to say you couldn’t gain even more customers if you were to target a slightly different clientele or rework your message or brand?

Again, the only way to know for sure is to ASK.

Smarter Marketing: Know your customer

Ten, 15, or even 20 years ago, gleaning information from your customers was a daunting proposition, often requiring the steadying hand of a market research firm, expensive database purchases, and even more expensive postal or telephone costs. You really needed to be serious about introducing a product or service, or wanting to know the minds and hearts of your customers, to be willing to invest such a large chunk of hard-earned cash.

But something happened in the late 1990s, give or take a few years. The Internet blossomed, the digital age bloomed, and suddenly tools to develop and disseminate surveys, collect, analyze, and report data were readily available and affordable, from online tools, to digital scanners, to automated spreadsheets and tabulators—a true marketers dream come true. (Disclaimer to all you survey purists out there: sure, nothing beats a scientifically designed survey and a pristine, unbiased sampling of your customers, but faced with no data vs. having some data, I’ll take “some” data every time.)

But then something even odder happened . . . and it’s still happening today. Businesses large and small have failed to use these data collection and analysis tools to their full advantage. But why?

For many, they simply don’t understand the power of information. They have failed to grasp the business argument for taking the guesswork out of their marketing moves. Imagine knowing what to say, how to say it, and to whom to address it . . . and all you need to do is ASK your customers.

For others, perhaps they fear customers will become annoyed if asked too many questions (personally, I feel flattered when a company asks my opinion—it shows they care what I think and truly want to be in touch with what customers want).

Still not convinced or motivated?

  • Just take a quick peek at services such as www.surveymonkey.comwww.zoomerang.comwww.surveygizmo.com, or countless other online survey tools. Even list server giants such as Constant Contact have added some surveying functionality to their offerings.
  • If online surveying is not practical for you, for whatever reason, review your company sales data for zip codes or phone information to get a sense of where your customers come from. You might even randomly sample phone numbers and call customers (or pay your team a little overtime to do so), so you can hear straight from them what matters most.
  • And don’t forget other online data tools such as Google Analytics and quantcast.com, which aim to measure Web site traffic and demographics.

The point is, nowadays there’s no reason NOT to be collecting some information from your customers. All you need to do is make it a priority . . . and then ASK.

Do you know your customers? If so, how do you gather information?

Share what’s worked (and what hasn’t worked) here.

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What’s in Your Wheelhouse?

We’ve all been there. In fact, we’re all probably still “there” to some extent, at least on occasion. In business and in life, there are just some things we love to do and some things we abhor—even if we’re good at them.

Take me, for example. On the domestic front, the laundry and I just don’t get along. Never have, never will. Can I do the laundry? Sure, but I do it begrudgingly. If it can be avoided, it will be. Put me in a store, though, on the trail of the next big bargain or on the hunt for something hard-to-find or hard-to-get, and I’m all over it. If there’s a yard to be tended, I’m there, too.

BOM Wheelhouse

On the business front, I’m a people person. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing gets my gears going more than “shaking hands and kissing babies.” But tie me to a desk, pouring over emails or staring at computer code all day, and my energy and enthusiasm levels fade fast. It’s not that I can’t do it or won’t do it—I’m actually quite good at crunching numbers, analyzing reports, and cracking the mysteries of computer code—but it’s just not something I look forward to or gain energy from.

You probably experience times when everything seems to go right. You feel good, your energy is high, and the results or experiences you most desired just keep coming in. Whether you realize it or not, chances are you are operating within your wheelhouse—leveraging your strengths, preferences, and gifts and doing things you enjoy and that you are good at.

Conversely, you probably experience times when nothing seems to go right. From relationships to business arrangements, the results just aren’t there and every moment is a struggle. When this happens, you’re most likely either operating outside of your wheelhouse or choosing not to do something that needs doing because you do not like to do it.

My experience is that activities—whether personal or professional, from business deals and projects to relationships—that are not aligned with what’s in our individual wheelhouses tend to fail. For whatever reason, we avoid these activities even if we know we should do them, because either we don’t like them, they drain our energy, or we’re just not good at them.

Yet we all know that sometimes you just have to do some things you don’t like, whether it’s pouring over a stack of boring business reports or spending a night at the opera (or the opposite, if these activities are in your wheelhouse). Does this mean then, ultimately, we are doomed to fail at something that doesn’t play to our strengths?

Hardly.

As entrepreneurs and individuals, we benefit from knowing what our strengths are (not what we “wish” they were, but a realistic assessment!). Armed with this knowhow, when a challenge or opportunity presents itself, we can craft a solution that aligns with what’s in our wheelhouse, rather than one at odds with it. If we do that, chances are we’ll be more apt to engage, follow-through, and achieve the success we want. Otherwise, we’ll experience starts and stops, and lots of initiatives and relationships that simply seem to go nowhere fast or wither on the vine.

Sure, there will be times when our strengths and preferences won’t be enough, when what we’d like to be doing doesn’t match up with what needs to be done. In that case, should you just put your head down and plow forward anyway, hoping for the best, even though you know your head and your heart are just not into it? Or should you simply ignore what you know is the right strategy or tactic and go ahead with what you like to do best anyway, hoping the results will be there regardless of the approach you take?

Certainly, there must be another way.

There is. In fact, there are several:

  • Come up with another approach—one that plays to your strengths and preferences. There is often more than one way to achieve a goal. So rather than developing strategies that rely on activities you do not like and will avoid, focus on solutions/approaches that lie within your wheelhouse. For example, if you hate cold calling, don’t embark on a sales strategy that relies solely on cold calling. If you don’t like public speaking, don’t embark on a regional tour of chambers of commerce, trying to pitch your business concept. If you’re idea of a fun date night is “dinner and drinks” at a local eatery, don’t suggest a trip to the local art museum. You get the idea.
  • Learn to enjoy those things that currently drain your energy . . . or at least tolerate them. That’s right. Just as you might have overcome a childhood dislike for broccoli or liver (OK, I know that’s a stretch), you can overcome your dislike for a certain activity. Quite often, we don’t like a certain thing because we either don’t know much about it, we haven’t been exposed to it, or we just haven’t dealt with it enough to be proficient. So take a class, read a book, or job shadow someone who likes/excels at a particular activity. You might never add said activity to your list of all-time favorites, but you may be able to turn your need to engage in it from time to time into an asset rather than a liability.
  • If you don’t like doing something or if you avoid doing something you know is necessary to achieve success, then bring someone in who does enjoy that activity. If you hate crunching numbers, find someone who loves it. If you hate keeping your computer technology up-to-date and virus-free, look to someone with those skills in his or her wheelhouse. If cold calling gives you hives, bring a sales person in who can’t get enough of it. If your writing makes Dick and Jane seem like college prose, hire a writer. As an entrepreneur, you may think you have to and you can do it all, but you really don’t and you really can’t. Chances are the added costs of bringing in experts and specialists will pale in comparison to the costs of lost opportunities, poor results, and countless late nights spent banging your head against the wall. (Of course, this approach won’t necessarily help if “ballet night” with the spouse just isn’t your thing. For that, you may have to focus exclusively on Alternatives #1 & #2!)
In his wheelhouse . . . and then some!

Do you find yourself constantly operating outside of your wheelhouse? If so, it’s time to step back and take a look in the mirror.

  • Is an alternative approach the answer for you?
  • Do you need to learn a new skill?
  • Or is the solution simply to bring in an expert to complement your skills and your existing team—or is it all of the above?

Share your thoughts and experiences here.

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HDSA “Celebration of HOPE Gala 2014” October 17

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America San Diego Chapter’s “Celebration of HOPE Gala 2014” is coming up on Friday, October 17, at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. This event features great food and drinks, dancing, an exciting live and silent auction, and talks from Steve Fisher, Head Coach, SDSU Men’s Basketball; Mike McCoy, Head Coach, San Diego Chargers; and Bud Black, Manager, San Diego Padres.

For more information on how you can donate an auction item, sponsor a table, or attend, visit www.hdsa.org/hopegala2014 or contact Stephanie Alband by email at salband@HDSA.org or by phone at 619-225-2255.

HDSA Gala  2014

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All Assumptions Are Not Created Equal

We’re all guilty of assuming. After all, assumptions based on life experiences and common sense can help us to anticipate and be proactive, rather than reactive.

But taking things for granted all of the time, even when we should know better, is where we can get into trouble . . . and the news these days—and how many of us react to the news—seems full of assumptions.

We assume our leaders have all the answers—from fixing the economy and getting a handle on immigration, to waging battles against Ebola and ISIS—but clearly, no one has all the answers. We assume doctors and medicine can fix anything that ails us, or that we can create any new technology we need to make our lives more efficient, or that we can solve all the problems life throws our way.

BOM-ASSUME

We should not assume there will always be answers, because, quite frankly, the questions have gotten pretty big and sometimes we don’t even know the question. Life is not a tidy sitcom or TV-drama where issues are resolved in 30- or 60-minutes chunks—where we can “assume” the hero or our favorite characters will triumph or catch the bad person.

In a blog I wrote last year, I stated, “When we get comfortable with a situation (or even apathetic), we can get complacent or ‘lazy’ or indifferent . . . When we assume, we run the risk of hurting our relationships with others, failing at a task, or simply becoming dysfunctional in our day-to-day dealings.”

Now is NOT the time for us to assume anything, or to allow others to take us for granted. Get informed, maximize understanding, and communicate clearly and with transparency. 

Here’s that blog again, in its entirety. Enjoy!

Assume at Your Own Risk

(Originally posted on May 9, 2013)

Don’t Assume. How many times have we heard someone tell us that, whether it’s at home or on the job? There’s usually a second part to that saying, something about “When you assume, you make a (posterior section) out of you and me.”

Seems like sound advice to me.

To “assume” means to take something for granted without proof. I think we assume because it requires less brainpower for us to assume something versus actually having to go out and substantiate it.

To illustrate, remember those “proofs” in trigonometry class? It was always much easier to look at an object and declare it a triangle or rectangle or whatever, than it was to go through the step-by-step process of actually proving it. Life can be a lot like that. When we’re faced with a particular situation, whether it’s at home or on the job, with a co-worker or a loved one, it’s just easier to “assume” the circumstances, motivations, and likely outcomes of the situation based on life experiences. Why bother go through the trouble of fully understanding a situation, when we can just assume (there’s only so much time in the day, right)?

Problem is, when we assume, we often get it wrong. When we assume, we run the risk of hurting our relationships with others, failing at a task, or simply becoming dysfunctional in our day-to-day dealings.

Proof that Assumptions Aren’t Always Correct

I’m not suggesting we go to the extremes of not assuming the sun will come up tomorrow, or not assuming that the bridge over the bay that was there yesterday will be there tomorrow, or that the laws of physics that govern our Universe will suddenly go awry. I am suggesting that in those situations where clear understanding and clear communication is critical, that we NEVER assume anything.

  • Do you need to get certain results from an employee or team at work? Don’t assume he or she (or the entire team) shares your vision or understanding of a particular requirement. Communicate what you want done and by when clearly. Ask questions to ensure that you have been heard and understood.
  • Do you always assume the worst from a given situation? Why? What does experience tell you? Have you ever assumed the worst and gotten the worst? For example, do you fret over running out of money? Have you everrun out of money? While the worst sometimes can happen, chances are the outcomes of most situations will never be the worst possible, and all you’ve done is spent a ton of mental and emotional capital worrying unnecessarily. Don’t assume. Rather, look at the situation objectively and reach conclusions based on facts and likely scenarios.
  • Similarly, don’t assume all is fine. Relationships with friends, spouses, and even business colleagues require constant reinforcement. Take nothing for granted. You can’t just toss seed onto the ground and hope it grows into something bountiful. Likewise, relationships need to be cultivated and nurtured so they grow.
  • Do you assume your child knows and remembers all of the household rules, such as curfews, the “do”s and “don’t”s of when friends can (or can’t) come over, chores, and expectations around homework and studying? Again, don’t assume. Make sure your child knows what you expect. Don’t nag, but also don’t be afraid to remind him or her of the rules. Youngsters typically aren’t focused on the house rules, not with texts, Facebook, friends, and their studies to distract them, but they do need their boundaries.
  • Don’t assume your elected representatives at the local, state, or Federal level know how you think or feel about issues. You might be surprised (or not) at how “out of touch” with constituents our officials can sometimes become (sadly, it’s the nature of the beast). So don’t be afraid to contact their offices and tell them how you feel. At the same time, don’t assume your voice doesn’t matter. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or email to get an official thinking the same way as you.
  • Don’t assume good health, especially as you get older. This, perhaps, is the most important assumption to overcome. Our bodies, minds, and spirits require constant replenishment, even when we look and feel our best. Get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, and don’t forget to build a little “down time” into your busy schedule. Fun is important, not optional.

When we get comfortable with a situation (or even apathetic), we can get complacent or “lazy” or indifferent. We begin to think that because a certain thing has always been a certain way, it will remain that way; we begin to accept that because a relationship with someone has always been a certain way, the relationship will remain that way as well.

Don’t assume, not if it’s important to you, your job, a friend, or a loved one. Take the time NOT to take something for granted. Make sure you understand a situation fully and then act if/as necessary. The only thing you can assume is that when you assume all of the time, it will eventually cost you.

How has “assuming” cost you? Share your experiences here.

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